Red Ochre, Sinoper, its all red dirt.


Red Ochre is one of the oldest paints known by man.  It was used by pre-historic man as a permanent type of paint and dye.  Red Ochre is an earthen pigment that is comprised of red iron oxide.  Red Ochre was used from pre-historic times and was in continuous use through history up until the modern day and we still use it.  Cinnini in his book “Il Libro dell’Arte” says that “It stands working up very well; for the more it is worked up, the finer it becomes.”

Well, if pre-historic mankind can make it and use it and you can’t overwork it, I might just have a chance at doing it right.

Dirt. Yup, that's dirt.

Dirt. Yup, that’s dirt.  Even has some roots in it.

Lighting isn’t very good in this picture but that is red dirt from the side of the road.

Clumps get broken down

Clumps get broken down

DSCN1325

I prefer to break the clumps down on the slab.

Picking out whatever other nature is in the dirt.

Picking out whatever other nature is in the dirt.

I like using a spoon to break up the dirt clumps.

I like using a spoon to break up the dirt clumps.

You can rock the spoon back and forth and really make use of the spoon's shape.

You can rock the spoon back and forth and really make use of the spoon’s shape.

Then you add water to the dirt:

Add water and move the miller in a circular fashion while pressing down ever so gently.

Add water and move the miller in a circular fashion while pressing down ever so gently.

Someday I may own a palette knife but for now I will use something else.

Scrape it back into the center to continue working it on the slab.

Scrape it back into the center to continue working it on the slab.

Don’t expect a lot from the first milling. And yes, it is a noisy process:

Repeat these two steps until you have the desired consistency.  The longer you do this for the more likely you will need to add more water to the mixture as it will dry out while working it.

Between each milling step you will scrape it back to the middle and you will start to notice changes in the consistency.  You’re beginning to turn it into something you want to paint with:

When you get near the end you will be able to hear and feel the difference.  Remember you can’t over work this product so when in doubt, mill it some more.

The aftermath?

Your hands will get dirty.

Your hands will get dirty.

I also made ink the night before so my hands still have left-over ink stains on them.

Scrape it all up and put it in the bottle or other container. Sea shells make a great container

Scrape it all up and put it in the bottle or other container.

Mussel shells make great containers.

If you are looking for authentic medieval and renaissance holders for your pigments shells are a very good choice. Keep to the shells from the place and time as much as possible if you want increase authenticity.

4 responses to “Red Ochre, Sinoper, its all red dirt.

  1. Did you add a binder to it? If not, it will probably dry and blow right off. It looks good so far. I wonder if a little could be added to gesso to give it a red tone.

    • I plan to do some follow-ups using different binders and have that discussion. Suggested binders from pre-17th century artists include tempera, glaire and various tree gums.

      As to being added to gesso, yes. It is very recommended from many different sources.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s